Good idea, weird execution
Setting up wasn't bad. There's an extra attachment for those who want to play on older DS systems, and the placement for the guitar pick stylus is brilliant. However, the grip itself was an absolute pain. I pride myself on having relatively long fingers, but I still found the buttons to be awkward. I know the setup is meant to be small, but I had to akwardly curl and crunch my fingers to hit every button, and my pinky finger never hit the blue button quite right -- it was either too far to the side or too far away. If I managed to get my pinky on the button comfortably, my index finger was off of the green button.
I also quickly learned to not adjust my hands too much while playing. The attachment didn't seem to lock quite right into my system. Making matters worse, if you knock the attachment too far out of the GBA port, you'll have to turn the game off and start over from after the last song you finished. This is a pain when you're mostly through a song, just to have to restart the system and start all over again.
Not to let these downfalls ruin my appreciation for a game I hadn't started yet, I dove into the single-player mode. I was immediately impressed with the song selection and sound quality. There's a handful of strong rehashes from GH3 (La Grange, Black Magic Woman, Hit Me with Your Best Shot, Helicopter), a few really nice additions (China Grove is just fun to play, Jet Airliner fit really well, This Love and Stray Cat Strut ended up working surprisingly well), and not that many WTF moments (Spiderwebs is really just too long).
However, partially into my first song, I was seriously having difficulty. Between an extremely awkward hand position and a bigger disconnect with the small screen and moving backgrounds, I found myself suffering from extreme hand cramps and a small case of motion sickness. Plus, the graphics are... interesting. I wasn't expecting much, but I wasn't expecting character models to be quite so stiff or stilted. I was also disappointed to find that even the harder difficulties were a breeze. I'm not very good past Medium or Hard on console GH games, and I was blowing my way through the hardest difficulty in the game.
The real challenge of the game is to find a way to fit your fingers onto the badly-space buttons, deal with the small bit of lag in the game (sometimes the DS seems to not be able to handle everything) and try not to let your stylus wander from the guitar strings on one screen while you're watching colored dots on the other. Strumming in the wrong place results in broken combos, squonky notes, and the end of your multipliers. The way the whammy bar is set up seems logical, but actually tends to bleed over into the next note you're meant to be strumming, and can end up causing more accidental misses than anything else--a real pain on some of the higher difficulties that provide stiffer penalties.
And did I mention the hand cramps? Let us not forget the monstrous hand cramps. Hand cramps so bad that the opening screens of the game suggest going to their web site for suggestions on dealing with the annoying hand cramps.
The songs are great until you've beaten all 25 in 3 hours, find yourself susceptible to carpal tunnel, and realize that the difficulty really isn't up to par to On Tour's console brothers. Multiplayer provides a small redeeming factor to this game, but you have to find a second player who decided to blow their time and money on this carpal-tunnel-inducing attempt at Guitar Hero. It's not really worth the $50 you have to drop to pick it up. I would rather have some of these songs show up on big-kid GH, rather than be relinquished to this afternoon-long game.